Family or Not?

Hello readers! I’m finally back. It took a pretty long time for me to settle in at my new job and find time again to write. I will write about my job, but today I want to talk about family.

The word “family” is one of those words that probably means a lot of different things to different people. I’m sure we Americans have a different idea of family than the average people in other countries, and vice versa. Practitioners of different religions probably also have definitions that include some families and exclude (many) others. But according to the definitions found on ye olde interwebs, there are certain criteria that must be met for some people to be found worthy of being labeled a family.

A family is:

  • The basic unit of a society
  • The primary institution for the socialization of children
  • Living in one household:
    • a parent/s and child/ren
    • more than one generation
    • a number of people greater than one
  •  Living together or apart:
    • individuals related by blood, marriage, or servitude
    • descendants of a common matriarch or patriarch

I’m not completely convinced that these criteria are an exhaustive or inclusive definition of family. I think I would add some criteria and maybe even take some out, but we’ll get there.

Here’s what got me thinking about “family”:

I work in the office at a luxury assisted living and memory care company. As I’ve been getting to know the ins and outs of dementia and other problems that come along with aging (even for the richest of the rich), I’ve met a number of residents and their families. One specific case is a lady who had early-onset dementia and her relationship with her extremely loving and loyal husband began to fall apart simply because her mind was. Her husband wrote a book about how they had been dealing with her dementia symptoms and their history as a couple. He devoted one portion of the book to the years right after their marriage where they spent time travelling the globe and how happy they were in those times. He praised the time they spent as a couple only. And then, he said, after all those years, they started their family. They had, I think, about three children over the course of the next few years.

It made me wonder what the heck they were before they started their family…

Another situation that I have faced many times since changing jobs is meeting new people and coworkers who ask the same old questions in order to try and get to know me.

  • Are you married?
  • How long have you been married?
  • How many kids do you have?
  • Why do you not have kids?
  • How can you not want kids?!
  • And then the kicker… Oh, you’ll change your mind. You just haven’t gotten there yet.

This has literally been the conversation I’ve been subjected to when I’ve met about 80% of the women at my new workplace. There were a couple who thought that as long as my husband and I feel the same way about it, that it’s fine. Like their approval of mine and husband’s lifestyle choices means something in the first place. There was one coworker who told me that she never wanted to be a mother, but she is. She conceded that she loves her child, but she might would not have had him if she could go back in time. Her revelation was strangely satisfying to me.

All of these instances meshed together over the last few months to make me wonder if my husband and I could be considered a real family, even though it is and will probably be just the two of us. We feel we are a family, but many definitions of family would disagree I suppose. As I thought more about the concept of family and which people can fit the mold, I will admit that I felt a little left out. I felt bitter that a term that means so much to me because I grew up in a very close traditional family, some may feel doesn’t apply to my relationship. How can the presence of a child be the determining factor as to if a couple is a family or not? Does a couple only reach “family status” when they procreate? Are friends only friends if they’ve exchanged friendship bracelets?

Then I thought about a friend of mine who is married but cannot have children. She and her husband desperately would like to “start a family” in the sense that my resident and her husband did, but she cannot. Does she and other couples who can’t have children feel left out, too? I imagine she does and it made me sad. My husband and I not having children is a choice for us, but a forced reality for her.

Then I considered LGBT couples who are fighting right now for the right to be family. It must hurt many of them deeply to not be recognized as a family unit like traditional couples.

I also must admit that, on a not-so-serious note, my husband and I have been watching season three of Orange is the New Black and on many occasions, the ladies who fall into the different groups within the prison all refer to their groups as families.

All of these thoughts make me feel the need to express what I think constitutes a family.

I believe that a family is two or more people who feel inexplicably bound together based on individual circumstances and events, who support each other financially and/or emotionally, and who would feel a profound sense of loss should something happen to one of the other individuals. They love each other and hold tight to each other through the mountains and valleys of life.

My husband and I are a family whether we have children or not. My mother-in-law and I are family, even if our communication hasn’t grown any better than it was when B and I first got married almost two years ago. My parents and my husband are family even if they don’t see eye to eye on religion. We are all trying to make it work and it will.

How We Adventure

When someone says the word “adventure”, most people would probably think it means going somewhere new and doing some exciting, and perhaps dangerous, activities you maybe thought you would never do. I believe that everyone has their own personal definition of an adventure. For some people, an adventure could be traveling to a new country or going skydiving. For others, it could be simply going for a walk in their city and exploring the sights.

I think it’s better to look at life as a daily adventure. In my experience, looking at it this way helps to keep things more interesting. Also, if you can allow yourself to go through your day with a sense of adventure, it’s a completely different mindset than looking at your day as something to just make it through. If you look at it as an adventure, you approach every day with a certain level of curiosity and open-mindedness you probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

I like the idea of adventure so much that it was in one of the “taglines” we used at our wedding. “A short stroll can lead to a big adventure” was the quote that I felt captured the essence of our dating/engagement/wedding story. To anyone who doesn’t know us personally, our “relationship timeline” may have seemed much too fast. Some people thought everything happened too quickly, but we knew what we wanted and went for it. I saw our short time of being together before getting married as the short stroll that was leading to a big adventure. I knew it was leading to a big adventure for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I knew simply being married would be an adventure in itself. I also knew we would be traveling together to India to meet B’s parents and I had never even flown in an airplane! I knew I was getting myself into an adventure and wanted other people to understand that I was not stepping off the cliff into this adventurous life blindly. Being married to someone from a completely different culture is a huge adventure not to be taken lightly or by those who are faint at heart!

We went on our trip to Dubai and India when we had been married for about 5 months, had a blast, and settled back into everyday life when we got back. Since then we have been working on having the best marriage that we can. We look at other couples we know and scrutinize what we can see of their relationships. We try to see what works in marriages and what doesn’t. We gather information and inspiration on how to continuously work at making our relationship the best that we can. One thing that is continually important to us is adventure, but not always in the sense that one might think.

An example of how we adventure on a regular basis is cooking together. We cook a large majority of our dinners at home because we both enjoy home cooked food, it saves money, and we always know what goes into our meals. We almost always decide together what the evening’s dinner menu will be and plan our entree, side dish/dishes, and maybe a dessert. We usually split the work of the chopping and cooking, taking into consideration who is best at or most comfortable with each task.

For example, I DO NOT want to touch raw meat under almost any circumstance if it can be avoided without much inconvenience. I just don’t like it. Fortunately for me, my husband does not mind it. When we are having some kind of meat for dinner, he is usually the one that cleans it, trims off any unwanted meaty bits, and cooks that dish. I am so glad it works out this way! I prefer to take care of the veggie dishes while he cooks the meat dish. Another reason this system works out well for us is that we have two, sometime three different dishes cooking at once so it ends up taking less time than if we were to cook each dish one at a time. This division of labor is our normal cooking routine. But things get crazy on the weekends! …

During the working days, we usually have some type of chicken or egg dish as our protein and a rotation of a few different vegetable side dishes. But our way of adventuring without spending a lot of money or without the stress of planning a short getaway, is cooking a slightly fancier dinner on weekends. Many people may not think of this as an adventure, but that just means that you are a snob who can’t enjoy the simple things in life! Just kidding! …Kinda.

B and I are food lovers. We both enjoy trying new recipes and types of food. If either of us is having a bad day, a good meal is almost guaranteed to make us feel better. There is a chance that our love language is food. The problem with always wanting to try new recipes is that if they go wrong, you still have to eat dinner that night. And when we’ve worked all day and just spent our limited evening time cooking a dish that didn’t work out so well, it’s hard to be motivated to cook a whole new dinner. Granted, most of our new recipes don’t turn out so bad, but the main idea is the same. Our solution to this “problem” is to save our new and adventurous recipes/ingredients for the weekends.

What we like to do is decide what we want to try. It could be recipe that’s new, one that may take a longer time to cook than we can afford on a weeknight, one with an ingredient we aren’t very familiar with, or one with an ingredient that may be too fancy for everyday meals. We wind down after the week/escape from reality by spending more quality time together in the kitchen creating a better/fancier meal to enjoy. We may stay up a little later than normal on a Friday night because of it, but when we don’t have to worry about getting enough sleep to go to work the next morning, it’s a fun time.

This type of adventure is one any couple can go on from the comfort of their home and their local grocery store. The time spent being creative as a team is priceless to us. Working together towards our goal of having a nice, home cooked meal that spices the routine up a bit after a week of being on our own separate schedules helps us focus on our relationship and the start of our weekend “us time”. So next time you feel the need to spice up your relationship, try a new recipe, literally!

Welcome!

To present an idea on the scope of this blog, here are a few thoughts:

Culture – the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.

This is dictionary.com‘s definition of “culture” that I find most appropriate.

It’s very interesting to me that a distinction is made between “behaviors” and “beliefs”. In general I think that most people primarily associate beliefs with culture, forgetting that behaviors are a key factor as well. Culture involves so much more than simply believing something. It encompasses a person’s everything. Everyone grows up in a certain fashion and (hopefully) as they grow more mature, they will be able to (and motivated to) objectively assess what made them who they are.

Culture has recently become a subject of interest to me because I am married to someone from a culture very different from my own. Obviously there are challenges that arise when two individuals commit to a marriage, even when those people are from the same or a similar culture. But when those individuals come from two different parts of the world, the challenges are different. I will not say that it is harder, I will just say that it is different. Some behaviors an American may take for granted, an Indian may think are crazy, and vice versa. And I want to talk about them and any other weird things that come up.

Get ready for some posts about culture, people! You have one, I have one, we all have a culture. Also, don’t judge me for my thoughts. I’m just a girl adjusting to my world. 🙂